John Tumpane spotted her climbing over the railing and gazing at the river below.
As a Major League Baseball umpire, John Tumpane is regularly making split-second calls—either a ball or a strike, safe or out at the plate.
On Wednesday, he made a split-second call in Pittsburgh even before he got to the ball park. And it saved a life.
Tumpane was walking across the Roberto Clemente Bridge after going out for a jog and lunch and getting set to be the home plate umpire at PNC Park that evening. The bridge was mostly empty, and Tumpane spotted a woman climbing over a railing and gazing at the Allegheny River below.
“What’s this lady trying to do?” Tumpane asked a nearby couple. He hardly waited for a response when the 34-year-old Chicago native rushed over and asked her what was going on.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recounted the ensuing conversation:
“I just wanted to get a better look of the city from this side,” she replied, according to the umpire’s recollection. “Oh no,” Tumpane said, hooking his arm around hers. “You don’t want to do that. It’s just as good over here. Let’s go grab some lunch and talk.” “No, no, no,” she answered. “I’m better off on this side. Just let me go.” “I’m not going to let you go,” he said. “Let’s talk this out. We’ll get you back over here.” “No one wants to help me,” she repeated. “Just let me go.” “No, we’re here to help you.” “You’ll forget me tomorrow.”
Tumpane gestured to a passerby to call 911, and within minutes emergency personnel arrived at the scene, as well as a police boat in the river and a helicopter above. Tumpane was joined by other passersby in trying to restrain the 23-year-old woman, who still seemed to be determined. At times, she dangled both feet off the bridge’s edge, putting her full weight in his arms, the newspaper reported.
“I was thinking, ‘God, this has got to be a good ending, not a bad ending,’ and held on for dear life,” Tumpane said. “She said, ‘You don’t care about me.’ I said, ‘I care.’ She said, ‘I just want to end it right now. I want to be in a better place.’ I said, ‘You’re going to be all right.’”
“I was just trying to tell her it was going to be all right. There’s help,” Tumpane said. “We’re going to be better if she can get back on this side. I said, ‘All these people are here. Look at all these people who want to help you. We’re all here for the right reasons. We want to get you better.’” Once the woman was lifted back over the railing, she was laid on a mat, and paramedics readied the ambulance. Before she was whisked away, Tumpane knelt next to the woman and tried to comfort her. He asked for her first name, and she gave it, and he prayed for her.
Medics transported the woman to UPMC Mercy.
Christine Moutier, a psychiatrist who is the chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, told the Post-Gazette that Tumpane did the right thing.
“I thought it was a fantastic instinct on his part,” Moutier said. “It’s exactly what our education program teaches to help people realize what they can do.” She said the off-duty umpire “provided the distressed woman with the connection she obviously needed,” the newspaper reported.
And even before he got to the stadium for the Pirates-Rays game, the word “Safe!” might have been going through his mind.
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